TUVALU FINANCE MINISTER SPEAKS OUT ON AID CHALLENGES

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Metia says ‘conditionalities encroach on sovereignty’

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 30, 2011) – Tuvalu's Finance Minister, Lotoala Metia, has called on the world's aid donors and development agencies to improve the way they work, especially when it comes to small island states.

More than 2000 delegates from 160 countries are attending the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in South Korea's second city of Busan.

Tuvalu has a population of just 10,000 people and relies on aid for 50 per cent of its gross domestic product.

[PIR editor’s note: Niue's Cabinet Minister Kupa Magatogia said his government "supports the commitments made in the Draft Busan Outcomes document that calls on development partners to deliver on their promises in Paris and Accrra, for more timely and accurate and transparent information on all aid provided and forward estimates for each country." Niue is one of a number of Pacific Islands nations attending the summit which aims to improve aid processes internationally between developing nations and aid partners.]

In an address to the Forum Mr. Metia told how difficult it is for his tiny planning department of 7 people to cope with the demands of aid officials.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett Speaker: Lotoala Metia, Tuvalu's Finance Minister

METIA: We are receiving too many visitors coming to the islands from donor partners. We are talking about 900 visits and we only have one officer in the aid management unit to take care of all those visits. And we also have 28 individual partners and it is very difficult for Tuvalu to digest and try and meet the demands and the requests of the visits by our donor partners.

GARRETT: You are also suffering from the increasing complexity of aid projects. Tell us about that.

METIA: As we progress over the decades, donors are coming up with conditions and benchmarks that we have to satisfy and meet before they can give us assistance so it is very difficult in some cases because they are kind of encroaching on our sovereignty.

GARRETT: How will the Busan forum help Tuvalu and other small states deal with these sorts of problems?

The Busan Forum is a very interesting opportunity for Tuvalu and the Pacific region. It is very encouraging that the donor partners and development agencies are committed to improving aid effectiveness. I think that is the message that is very encouraging for Tuvalu.

GARRETT: You were at the Pacific Islands forum event on the Cairns Compact on Aid Co-ordination. Tell us how that went.

METIA: The compact agreement signed in Cairns in 2009 is something that we are still trying to digest, trying to find our way to accommodating the recommendations that are stated in the compact. And, as you would recall, we have just completed a peer review and the recommendations we are working towards complying with those recommendations that are aligned to the Compact agreement. We are making slow progress but we will be there eventually.

GARRETT: so what were the advantages and disadvantages of the peer review process and how did it help you improve the co-ordination of aid?

METIA: The peer review highlighted the weaknesses, especially in our financial systems and that is something we are trying to alleviate and trying to address and improve so that we can have more up-to-date financial systems and records and information available. The disadvantage side of it is that it will take a lot of time, or hard work from the side of the government to try to achieve them, but we have no choice but to work towards achieving those recommendations.

GARRETT: The Busan forum came out with a new deal for fragile states but Tuvalu is not on the list. Is that a problem?

METIA: I am not sure where they got the list from for fragile countries and it is something that concerns us because I think we should be at the forefront of the list of fragile countries.

GARRETT: What does the new deal for fragile states offer Pacific countries exactly?

METIA: After listening to the plenary yesterday, they are working closely and I think they are going to sign some kind of agreement to take forward the case of fragile countries and for a paragraph… is being included in the outcomes of the Forum to especially state the concerns of fragile countries.

GARRETT: There have been a lot of decisions made at this Busan forum. What needs to be done to make sure they are implemented?

METIA: I think the way forward after this Forum is strong commitment. For the donor partners to walk the talk and not just do the talking. We want actions on the ground and we want them to meet their commitments.

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